I shared with you in a recent post how by caring for my mother-in-law, Audrey, who had Lewy-Body Dementia, I discovered that I have “Spiritual” Dementia. Here’s another symptom: “Protect the Image.”
Audrey often came to me and said, “Someone stole my hearing aids” or whatever it was she was currently missing. When I found them, she replied, “They must have put them back.” Because of her memory difficulty, she couldn’t remember where she put things. Her immediate conclusion was that someone stole the item—not that she misplaced them. And when we found it, “they put it back.” Because of the aspect of Lewy Body Dementia that often includes paranoia, Audrey believed everyone was against her and was stealing from her. Her inability to remember offered her the proof of her delusion.
When we gently suggested that she merely forgot where she put the item, anger rose inside her and she was quick to tell us we didn’t know what we were talking about. In her terror of wondering if she was indeed losing her mind, she protected her image. It always was someone else’s fault for the difficulties of life.
Yet, I see myself in her reaction. As a recovering perfectionist, I’m still very sensitive that no one see me as anything less than perfect. My goal is to shine my image of being competent, dependable, and efficient. To be seen as anything less, makes me upset and reminds me that I can’t be in control—even of the way people see me.
Some time ago, I signed up to bring snacks for our adult Sunday school class, knowing that I would be on vacation the week before–but I would be back in time. When I returned on Saturday and listened to my messages, Robin, the person in charge of snacks said that she would find someone else to bring the snacks because I hadn’t returned her call confirming I could do it.
I went ballistic! I ranted and raved, “Does she think I’m undependable and inefficient?” My husband was shocked at my reaction yet I felt justified in my reaction. But after I calmed down, and through a lot of self examination, I recognized that my precious self image had been marred in someone else’s eyes. My anger was a strategy to point the finger at how horrible Robin was to not trust me. That way the attention would be directed to her—not my inadequacy.
I’m reminded of Jonah. Jonah was given a prophecy for the Ninevites that they would be destroyed. But he sensed they might repent and then God would forgive them, thus making him the only prophet whose prophecy didn’t come true. He would be seen as a liar. And when the Ninevites did indeed repent, Jonah was angry.
Jonah 4:1-3 tells us, “But Jonah was greatly displeased [about the Ninevites’s repentance] and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, ‘O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live'” (NIV).
Jonah had tried to flee to Tarshish to avoid this very scenario. He became exposed as a liar, plus he hated the Ninevites who were wicked and violent Assyrians. He didn’t want them to be spared.
When I try to perform perfectly so that no one will see that I struggle, I’m the same as Jonah and Audrey. I demand, “See me perfectly, or else I’ll get angry!”
That’s a kind of spiritual dementia. My mind is not focused and concentrating on the Lord. Look for more coming in the next post: the next symptom is : “It’s a Reflection of Me!”